Getting your hands on to something new is always tricky, messy, and troublesome until you start getting used to with the processing and handling. Same way, using a plasma cutter while ensuring precise and finest cuts with least possible mess may seem hard-to-achieve but it can get really simple if you follow some general yet tricky tips for this.
To serve you in the purpose of getting your hands on fine and precise metal plasma cutting, we have written this article in the simplest possible language so you can get the maximum benefit out of it.
First thing first
The first thing you should consider before starting the cutting process is a safe workspace that should be a well-ventilated area with no flammable material inside or closer because it may catch fire by coming in contact with the splatters.
Make sure you have appropriate safety gear needed for a plasma cutting process to keep you at the safe side and these include a welding helmet, work boots, safety goggles, gloves (must be heat-resistant), heat resistant apron, welding jacket, work pants, any earplugs, and a respirator face mask.
Plasma cutting is not an easy job and you should make sure to be at the safe line by taking your safety gear seriously.
Getting ready for the Cutting:
When you have a safe workplace and have managed with the safety products, now it’s time to check the list for accessories and attachments needed to accomplish the cutting task in a convenient manner. Let’s see what we need;
Plasma cutting table: There are many good options for tables in the market or you can go for the one easily available to you. The table should be able to maintain the good balance between processing and should support the entire workpiece that fells off during the cutting process.
Magnetic guide: Magnetic guide comes very handy especially when you pledge to make curved or dimensional cuts. With the aid of this guide, you can run the torch along the edge for an accurate cut.
Circle kit: While fabricating a steel bar, you’ll need to anchor it in place and for this, you have to cut many through holes so you could bolt the bar in place. This isn’t much easy but with a circle attachment, it becomes really quick and convenient.
These mentioned attachments are not a total, depending upon the project, you’ll need varying attachments for working quickly and effectively.
Plasma cutters OR Multi-purpose machine?
There are machines in the market that only serve as welders, other services only as plasma cutters whereas some machines come with multi-functional set-up offering TIG welding, stick welding and plasma cutting all in one unit.
Your needs would clear your decision. Look, if you are a DIY’er that tends to do different tasks over the time, you should buy a multi-purpose machine that could serve you in all means and cutting the expense of having two different machines for welding and cutting.
Secondly, if you are doing a fixed kind of job and paying fixed services to the society or working in a garage or workshop with the same kind of work daily, you could possibly go for a good expensive premium level plasma cutter that would do the cutting for you with the best possible accuracy.
Complete insight on using a plasma cutter:
The basic thing to know or keep in mind is, although the general working phenomenon is the same the working procedure of every plasma cutter is somehow different from the other one. But by learning the basics, you can easily work with any kind of plasma cutter by focusing on the assembly or by reading the guiding manual.
Make some time, focus on the machine’s assembly, read the manual properly and then start working because every machine is different as some have a built-in air compressor and built-in safety guards whereas some others are basic units that demand external air and offer fewer safety features.
Read the guide written below as it will help you in better understanding the general working process of a plasma cutter. And for more convenience, I’ve broken the whole process into sized stepwise pieces so you can understand this fully.
Here are the steps to follow for cutting;
Getting the Machine Ready: When you are ready to go with the plasma cutter, make sure you have followed considered the specs described in the first part of the article. If yes, now you can proceed with getting your machine ready for the process.
If your cutter works with external air, hook the compressor with your machine and then plug in whereas if you have a machine with a built-in compressor, just plug it in to start the work. Activate the pressure gauge, make sure the air is building up and you are ready to go.
There, you have to maintain the air pressure at a specific value that would be mentioned in the manual for optimal cutting. Read that and maintain. Remember, falling down of the pressure is pretty normal when you start cutting and when you will stop, the pressure will be built back to optimal PSI.
Basic Adjustments: After maintaining your machine at the power and optimal flowing air, you’ll have to make some basic adjustments accordingly. Do refer to the manual for specific guideline.
The very first thing is checking the amperage that will be set according to the material of choice because different metal materials and different thicknesses demand different amperages. To understand this, follow a simple rule that says thicker will demand higher. Usually, machines offer fixed amps that are enough to cut half-inch thick plates.
Secondly, the torch needs attention throughout the process. Because the process uses very hot air, some machines offer built-in safety features that inclusive of stopping the operation when the torch is not rightly assembled or misses a part of it to avoid mishaps and second is the trigger guard making sure you are aligned with your subject and are ready-to-go.
Safety adjustments: After setting an adjusting your machine specifically according to the nature of the machine and the type of work you are going to perform, now it’s time to consider your safety before actually starting the cutting. Because working with metal and cutting using plasma is something really messy that can make sparks and dross fly around just everywhere.
Safety always comes first and to be safe from sparks and splatters, you need to take above-mentioned safety parameters seriously.
Main Operations: After all the adjustments and armouring with safety parameters, you are ready to start cutting. Know that for cutting straight lines, a basic guide is enough but for curved or dimensional cuts, you’ll need a magnetic guide that will keep you aligned and fixed to the edge.
Now, lien up your torch at 90o over the workpiece/subject surface, depress the trigger button and attentively start moving it along the metal surface. While cutting, you should focus on the travel speed that will give you an idea if you are too speedy or too slow to make efficient cuts.
To know the travel speed, focus on the flying sparks and dross. If they are flying upward and towards you, you are too quick and need to reduce the speed. If you are having un-even cuts, there are chances you are too slow giving the torch room to wander around. Lastly, if the spark and dross are falling off to the floor and cuts are even, this means you are following just the right speed.
Ending the Cut: Make sure you maintain the torch at 90 degrees throughout the process of cutting to ensure you mark safe, precise, fine, and smooth cuts on the workpiece. Sometimes little sides or corners seem like they are not cut properly but in reality, they are cut but just stuck with the boundaries of the workpiece. Grab a hammer and stab them gently so they’ll fall off to finish the all-rounder cutting.
Turning off the machine: There is a term named duty cycle for these machines that describes the continuous period of time for which a torch can be used to make the precision. Read the manual of your machine thoroughly and find the duty cycle of your machine.
Make sure to stay in the limit of duty cycle by cutting only for the given period of time otherwise the torch can get really hot giving you a significant loss.
The machine needs to cool down after every duty cycle before being used for the next cycle. Make sure to give the machine the time to recover otherwise you could get serious damages to your machine.
Concluding the Article:
In the article you just read, we merely and honestly tried to give you the know-how about basic things that should be considered if you are up to using a plasma cutting machine as a beginner. We concluded the science behind the whole process and described the differences between plasma cutter machines and multi-purpose machines followed by the set-up required for undertaking plasma cutting.
General instruments needed for the operation and basic safety guard was also discussed in detail because we care for you. The explained operation is good enough to get your hands on the basic use of any plasma cutter with safety and accuracy.
So you know, plasma cutters are great machines to work with and are working greatly to polish your innovatory nature with the professional touch. They are a great worthy investment though!